Tuesday, August 26, 2008
We are now in Ohio and have decided to start a new blog about our life back in the states... We cannot begin to thank you all enough for staying in tuned to our time in Kenya. We cannot describe how meaningful it is to know that others care about you. Please continue to check in on us as we start again in Oxford, Ohio...
Our new blog can be found at:
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Wednesday was one of the longest days of our lives…literally-a 32 hour day! We were greeted in
We are yet to settle in anywhere yet, but are inching out way in that direction. We do have new phones, so if you want to give us a jingle, we’d love to hear from you.
Joel’s Phone #: (253) 302-1098
Mandy’s Phone #: (253) 302-2969
It looks like we are going to head up to the mountains for a few days to resituate our minds as we plunge into this transition. I can’t tell you how thankful we are for your continued support along the way.
It was an amazing year…not necessarily a “fun” year at all times, but a year that we will never forget. New perspectives, newfound gratitude and newfound relationships. We may be thousands of miles away, but these things withstand great distances. It is our continued hope that they will also withstand the tests of time and the American pace of life.
We boarded a plane at 11 PM on Sunday night and headed to
We only spent a few days there but it was nice to have a bit of time to reflect as we prepared for our homecoming…a special thanks to David (who I met while climbing
Perhaps the climax of it all was the icing on the cake for our year in
Our final day wouldn’t have been complete without a trip out to Mathare. We enjoye our last church service at the Inspiration Center with Mark, Moses, Boyye and roughly 100 more kids. It was a great day as the service was fantastic and we were able to share a meal together from a local hotel. After the service, David (a local restaurant owner) brought food up to the center where we all shared a meal together. We had to keep the kids inside as they would have brought the entire village back with them if we let them out and told them that there would be free food!
While it was hard to say goodbye, we are encouraged by what is happening in Mathare and are convinced that when we return, amazing things will be happening. Thank you Moses and all of our friends in Mathare, you have touched out lives and the lives of many others. We continue to stand with you in solidarity and pray for transformation in your community.
culture, eautiful architecture, gracious hospitality, wooden boats and ornate doors everywhere you go. Even the regular power outages on the island felt like relaxing!
In long, a picture is worth a thousand words!
...and more boats
Dinner with Gideon, Mwix and our new friend Heika
Mwix and the widest street in town...
The most amazing mango shakes ever!
BBQing our freshly caught fish!
Living the tough life...our balcony view!
Playing in the ocean...we got to go swimming in a storm and catch some good waves!
Swahili Architecture and local transport (donkeys)
The land of beautiful doors
Hurry up! Dinner is in 6 hours!
View from our balcony!
No complaints with our guesthouse...the stopover!
Eating our freshly caught fish for lunch on Manda Island
Flying back to Nairobi...in our tiny plane!
Just like any place that we have ever transitioned from, there are lots of visits that take place during the last few weeks. Between friends through CTM, frisbee and others that we met along the way, it was a busy time! Lots of tasty food, wonderful conversations and questions to help prepare us for our transition.
We enjoyed a trip to Banana (a small town 30 minutes outside of
During our last week, we took advantage of the buy one get one free pizza offer at a local restaurant and invited several of the pastors and their spouses over from the CTM network. We had a wonderful time catching up on life, reflecting on our year together and watching people eat pizza for the first time. Luckily, we had ugali and sikuma on backup for those that didn’t like it. It was a wonderful evening in which they commissioned us to return to the
We couldn’t let some last minute visits with
Frisbee Folks: What can I say? We spent two evenings a week with this crew throughout the entire year. We had an amazing time with all of them and are so grateful to have found this outlet in our lives in
Other last minute visits included bowling, the best Ethiopian food ever two more times, crepes, debriefing with fellow NWerners, Western food with Violet and final Nairobi impressions of wonderful Indian Food!
We knew that we wanted to get one last Safari in, but also knew that our time was coming quickly to a close-so we killed two birds with one stone and spent time with great friends as we ventured into
- Arriving 5 hours later than anticipated because of a late start, the sleeping bags that never showed up, extra stops for Nyama Choma (Roasted Meet) at roadside stands, etc.
- Seeing 3 lions perched on a downed tree 50 feet from the road. It couldn’t have been set up better in a zoo!
- Eating Roasted Meat, Chipatis, Fries and Juice around the fire…a true Kenyan bachelor’s meal
- Being surrounded by 1000 pound buffaloes at night in our campsite and seeing grown me scared out of their minds.
- Seeing tons of animals on our morning game drive…including hayinas, a male lion, buffalo galore, flamingos, rhinos, giraffe, zebra-tons of animals!
- Surviving a stare down from a buffalo staking his territory in the middle of the road as we tried to pass him in a van. We don’t know the whole story but saw a car flipped over on one of the roads in the park earlier in the day…enough to remind you that these animals can do some serious damage.
- Coming back to our campsite to find that it had been wasted by baboons…all of the tents were down, the sleeping bags dragged 100+ meters, clothes everywhere, even a poop surprise on the picnic table. These things are malicious!
- A visit to see some of the boys from Dagoretti 4 Kids at a boarding school close to the park. They were so happy to see all of us and perhaps more excited to enjoy our leftover food from the trip as a break from their monotonous school menu!
- Another Nyama Choma stop on the way home and the van overheating.
- Hangin’ out with good people in a gorgeous place doing something that we love. Time well spent!
Saturday, June 28, 2008
I know-we have been terrible with the updates over the past couple of weeks.
Here is a sneak preview of the stories and pictures that will come after the re-entry into the land of highspeed. Until then, this is our last greeting from the southern hemisphere for a while.
- Camping with the Dagoretti Guys, eating nyama choma and getting close and personal with a lion
- Farewells to all of our local peeps...friends, pastors, leaders, frisbee players, teaching partners, family members...lots of food, lots of blessings and invites galore to return.
- Significant time in getting the masters program up and rolling and in a spot where it will run smoothly from afar.
- A trip to a 14th Century Swahili Island in the Indian Ocean with Gideon and Mwix
- Getting our last (hopefully last) round of the stomach biology experiments in...I am taking my cipro as I type.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
David’s life story is far from anyone’s that I have yet to meet. You have to understand his character a bit before diving in…he is all laughs. There were times when there wasn’t much to laugh about in Kenya this year, nor can you get to the sarcasm that you can enjoy with people from your own culture for fear of being misunderstood. David was our go-to guy in being OK with being misunderstood and laughing along the way. He is an outspoken politician, wanna-be church leader restaurant owner working in Mathare while also spending considerable time at the Inspiration Center, a community center for kids.
He allowed us to peer in behind his laughter and learn a bit of his hard past. He spent years of his life as a robber, thug and running from the police, helping him understand the ways of those in hard places in Nairobi who have little to hold on to other than criminal activity. He understood the post-election violence differently than you or I ever will, yet has somehow developed a new perspective on life. Time in jail, 4 gunshot wounds, memories of running for his life and seeing his closest buddies dead in ditches shape his worldview. His laughter is far from a coverup, and closer to an authentic realization that each day alive is a blessing, regardless of where you have come from.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Tiger Woods and Phil Nickelson may be a long ways away, but we have officially launched the Nairobi Masters program in partnership with CTM,
CTM Director Kris Rocke (the white one) and Mile High Ministry Director Jeff Johnsen facilitated the first intensive of the program last week. The first two days, which were open to the broader community, attracted over 100 local leaders. The two training days to follow were only open to those that are officially part of the CTM Nairobi Masters Cohort. Kris and Jeff were in their prime in “disorienting” the students and forcing them to think critically about their role as urban ministers. We often sat back and chuckled as they found a way to maneuver in tricky spaces around theological, cultural and social landmines. I don’t know of many others that could tread these tracks.
Collectively, we explored what it looks like to see the incarnational nature of Christ in the slums of
Their time in
This process has taught us a great deal about education in various contexts. We came into the year with our own ideas of higher education based on our own experiences in the states but soon learned that there are obstacles to get around here in Kenya. A few examples:
- As of this January, education is supposed to be free for everyone up to form 4 (the completion of high school). In actuality, it costs the equivalent of two months rent each 3 month term. While rent is very cheap in some places, incomes are low.
- Because of a lack of access to technology, the expectations between high school and university curriculum are drastically different. Students are well prepared in knowledge content, but struggle with communicating ideas.
- The Kenyan mode of education is incredibly classical. With the 3 R’s as top priorities and a high regard for structure, it makes are American education look like a bunch of play-dough degrees.
We are eager to see where this will all go. We invite you to learn more about the partner institutions by visiting their respective websites:
Friday, May 30, 2008
In years past, this event has always been a fundraiser for a local organization doing work with kids in the community. In years past, proceeds went to an organization, they occasionally came out for the day to watch and at best, were somewhat involved. This was not the case this year. We decided to work with a group of kids that had never played ultimate frisbee during the month before, teach them how to play and form a team to enter into the tournament. It was in the spirit of all of this that we were able to go 6-0 in the tournament. Here’s a quick summary of our wins.
- We taught 15-20 kids how to play a new game that they will likely hold onto in the near future. Teaching them the basics and providing the basic equipment, it was fun to rally them around a new activity.
- The improvement from the first time that we played to our last game was incredible! You have to imagine that most of the kids had never seen a frisbee before. They thought it was a plate or something that you throw to a dog. All of the teams commented on how well these guys had done for only playing the game for one month.
- We were able to build new relationships with a great group of guys that we may have never had the opportunity to spend time with. There is something about enduring competition together. It allowed us to connect with the leaders of the org as well as a great group of guys with a tough past.
- We were able to raise 75,000 Ksh (approx. $1300 USD) for the organization. All of the t-shirts, food and drinks were sponsored by local businesses and the regular group of frisbee players.
- We were able to help some of our expat friends in
gain a bit of insight into the lives of local stories. In many cases here in Nairobi , there is a huge gap between the international and local community. This was a way to bring people together in a fun and non-threatening way. Many of our friends from abroad expressed interest in visiting the dagoretti project and playing games in their area. Nairobi
- Despite the fact that we didn’t win any games, the guys had a postivive attitude, encouraged one another and set a great example for other teams. People commented left and right on their attitude and politeness to each of the teams that we encountered.
This was an incredible experience for everyone. I (Joel) will always remember my first ultimate frisbee tournament and I am convinced that the kids of dagoretti will do the same.
Friday, May 23, 2008
We Can’t express quickly time is passing over here. There were days in January and February when we thought time could not inch any slower. Now, things have changed and June 29 (our departure date) seems to be a blink away. Here is a brief snapshot of what is making time pass haraka haraka (quickly quickly) these days:
As many of you know, we have played ultimate frisbee with a group of people here every Friday and Sunday. In February, we began planning for the 3rd annual Nairobi Ultimate Frisbee Festival, a tournament to promote the game and activate local youth. We have been involved with planning the tournament and are coaching a team of former street kids that are connected to one of our partner organizations. The guys at Dagoretti 4 Kids have been awesome in picking up the game, practicing hard and using this as an opportunity to show how far that they have come. We practice, ½ times each week, have regular scrimmages against a team of kids from Mandy’s school and will play in the tournament this weekend. We have received sponsorship from the tournament from local sources and are excited to report that all proceeds from the tournament will go to Dagoretti 4 Kids. We will keep you posted on how the tournament goes this weekend!
Setting up a masters program thousands of miles away from the source, in a place where computers are few and far between and in a very different academic context is a lot of work. We have worked hard to help 25 people apply for a CTM/Bakke Graduate University and Carlile College Masters program for grassroots leaders serving in the slums. There are few systematic ways of doing things over here. While it would be nice to have everyone simply go to a website, fill out the forms and send them in, it doesn’t work that way here. Instead, we print all of the forms, have a meeting with everyone to go through the application, have them handwrite their responses, hand them in, scan the documents and send large files (that take 10 hours to send) to the
Kris and Jeff’s Visit:
It’s one thing to plan for a family visit, but when visits are related to CTM functions, it takes a bit more time and energy. Kris and Jeff will be arriving in
With our time here coming to an end, we are making sure that our work here this year doesn’t come with us. Equipping Gideon and others with helpful ideas and systems has become important as we think about leaving. Mandy is also transitioning from her work at ISK as her school year finishes in less than two weeks. We can’t forget the practical steps of moving and making sure that we can fit our year in
So, those are a few things that are going on over here…others include a photo project in mathare, continuing to explore some partnership opportunities locally and abroad, hanging out with friends and members of the CTM network here, figuring out what we will come back to in American politics, taking Swahili lessons and learning how to cook Kenyan food.
I am not really sure where to start…perhaps a snapshot of Thursday evening’s emotions would be appropriate. Frustrated, hurt, honored, exhausted, fearful and maybe even a bit of resentment toward those who have gone before us.
Thursday was a reminder of how far the CTM network has come here in
Mandy, Gideon, Moses and I ventured into a new part of town to visit with a group of pastors. Mandy and Gideon had visited before and were encouraged by the transformational work taking place within this community. Gideon invited us as he was hoping to film a few clips for a “signs of hope” video that he is compiling to be shared with mainstream and slum pastors in
In retrospect, the signs early on that things might be a different were obvious. The fact that we arrived 2 hours later than they had expected us, yet a group of 25 pastors will still eagerly waiting was sign number one. Signs two, three and four came in the first 30 seconds of our encounter when Mandy and I were asked to sit in the front, when we noticed a table with crafts for sale off to the side and when Gideon and Moses were barely acknowledged. Sign five came when our primary reason for the visit (Gideon’s interview clips) were placed on the back burner and Mandy and I were issued “lead roles”.
As we walked around the community, we went to six different churches. The tour of the community was meant to be a show and tell amongst other pastors in the area of what each ministry is doing. Ideally, we would be a listening ear in the background and there may have been a little red light on Gideon’s camera glowing. Instead, it became a ploy for access to resources, a cry for help and a presentation for what they had been prepped for as “potential donors”. Don’t get me wrong, there is some great stuff going on in this place. Most of the churches have started schools as there are few government schools operating in this area, there is a strong network of pastors who know what is going on in the community and these churches remain agents of transformation in a place that is environmentally, physically, economically and socially impoverished.
One could have said that it was an honor to be treated the way we were. We were offered bottled water regularly to cope with the beating sun, they insisted on carrying our backpack, we were given a 3-course meal at the end of the day, kids waited 3 extra hours at the school simply to say hello to us (and see white people in their school) and we were asked to sign guestbooks in many of the places. One could argue that these people were simply honoring us. The scary part for us was when Gideon and Moses were side-stepped in order for all of this to happen. The four of us arrived as guests, but only two of us remained guests over the duration of the day. Gideon and Moses, for that we apologize, You should be the guests of honor in your own city.
One can’t help but think how things got this way. Was it the western missionaries that previously expected better treatment? Is if western missionaries that have viewed each encounter as an opportunity to give money? Did we imply something in earlier interactions that encouraged this behavior? Do some people not have the capacity to look past skin color and the dollar signs embedded in the pigment of one’ skin? Or maybe, these people are simply survivors-they saw and opportunity and went in for the kill.
Friday, May 9, 2008
We first met Boyye during our second week in
When Boyye’s father passed away in December, it was tough on him and his family. He lives with his mother and grandma and near his sisters in Mathare, an informal settlement on the east side of
The second priority was building up Boyye to a point where he understood the complexities of joining 14-15 year olds in Form I (9th Grade) as a 19 year-old…the realization that he would be 23 upon graduation was not only a strange concept for us, but also for him. Boyye has been committed to helping out at the
Perhaps the most peculiar thing for us in this process was learning how quickly things could happen. We have been talking with Boyye about going back to school for a few months now. He had shown signs of interest along the way, and became serious about things over the past month. Last week, when we decided that this would be our best bet in investing in him and the Mathare community, we approached a friend who deals with educational sponsorship. Coming into our meeting with her, we figured that we would have to wait until the following year since 3 months had already passed in the Kenyan academic calendar. 5 minutes into the conversation, we had a book list, a breakdown of costs and an appointment with the headmaster. Can you imagine? No application, no waivers, no admission process.
Another important learning process for us along the way was learning about the economics of education in
I joined Boyye, his mother, a good friend from Mathare and a volunteer from the sponsorship organization to his new school on Wednesday. It brought me back to our first weeks in
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Last week was a week of just the opposite. I took the opportunity to enjoy one of the things that energizes me most effectively and set off to the mountains for a few days. In true Kenyan style, I joined a guide, three cooks and a team of 12 English guys to the slopes of
The trip was excellent-perfect weather, beautiful scenery and a successful summit bid. Starting at 8000 feet, we climbed to 11,000 feet for our first acclimatization night and on to 14,000 feet the following evening. The summit of
When I re- turned to the park gate, I caught a ride into the closest town and took a four-hour matatu ride to Nakuru, home of the infamous pink flamingo flock in
Driving back into the crowded streets of
But, it’s going to have to wait a bit…we are both sick with sinus stuff and are completely exhausted-maybe the rhino got us sick.